Scandal-plagued Gardiner wins reelection in 45th Ward, but 30th remains undecided — despite declaration of victory

Ald. James Gardiner received more than 55% of the votes in the 45th Ward race. Ruth Cruz garnered over 51% of the vote against Jessica Gutiérrez in the 30th Ward, though mail-in ballots still need to be tallied.

SHARE Scandal-plagued Gardiner wins reelection in 45th Ward, but 30th remains undecided — despite declaration of victory

Ald. James Gardiner (45th) faces challenger Megan Mathias as Ruth Cruz and Jessica Gutiérrez square off to determine who will replace retiring Ald. Ariel Reboyras in the municipal runoff election on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

Sun-Times file photos

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Embattled Ald. James Gardiner cruised to victory in Tuesday’s election in the 45th Ward, while a political newcomer declared victory over the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez in another Northwest Side race in the 30th Ward.

Gardiner garnered more than 55% of the vote, leading attorney Megan Mathias with all precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. In the other race, Ruth Cruz received over 51% of votes against Jessica Gutiérrez, also with all precincts reporting.

Cruz declared victory, but Jessica Gutiérrez, making her second run for the seat, did not concede.

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Gardiner’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Mathias conceded as she held a party at a western-themed bar in Edgebrook.

“The beautiful part of this campaign was that it started from a love of the community and grew with the voice of the community,” Mathias said in a statement. “Other people in this race made me a better candidate, and I hope that Ald. Gardiner appreciates that thousands of people expressed a desire for transparency, integrity and a voice.”

Cruz, an assistant director of admissions at Roosevelt University, later claimed victory in the 30th Ward.

“Our community made a big statement today,” she said. “Against a big name, big money and big machine. We had one-fourth the money Jessica had. Chicago is hungry for change.”

But Jessica Gutiérrez’s campaign manager, Maggie O’Keefe, told the Sun-Times that Gutiérrez still wants “to allow every vote to be counted” with so many mail-in ballots still outstanding. As of Monday night, 1,637 votes by mail needed to be counted in the ward, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Crime and economic development emerged as key issues in both races on the Northwest Side, where Ald. Ariel Reboyras’ retirement left the 30th Ward field wide open and Gardiner’s scandal-plagued first term hung over his re-election bid in the 45th.

Ald. Jim Gardiner sits back down after addressing his City Council colleagues in 2021 and apologizing for text messages he sent.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

A former Chicago firefighter, Gardiner has touted his ward as a leader in economic development and has remained a vocal critic of outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot — a popular stance for a ward that’s considered one of the city’s most conservative and covers the Old Irving Park, Portage Park, Jefferson Park, Gladstone Park, Wildwood and Norwood Park neighborhoods.

Gardiner has also been embroiled in a series of controversies and probes, though.

Perhaps most notably, leaked text messages showed Gardiner used profane, offensive and misogynistic language and threatened to withhold ward services from residents he deemed enemies. Gardiner issued a rare apology on the City Council floor in September 2021, a day after it was revealed he’d come under FBI scrutiny.

“I stand before this body to offer my sincerest apologies for the pain and insult that anyone has endured as a result,” Gardiner said at the time. “I take full responsibility for my offensive words in those messages.”

Mathias, a small business owner and chair of the local school council at Belding Elementary, previously told the Sun-Times ward residents faulted Gardiner for being inaccessible and hesitated to support her campaign because they “feared retaliation.”

‘The community knows I’m transparent and honest’

In the 30th Ward — which covers parts of Belmont Cragin, Irving Park, Portage Park and Avondale — both candidates said public safety was a top issue and called for more city funding for economic stability and development.

They also agreed the ward is ready for new leadership after 20 years under Reboyras.

Jessica Gutiérrez, the former policy director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, narrowly lost to the longtime alderman four years ago. During the campaign, Cruz said her community “wants to see something new” and that residents were “tired of the political machine and old dynasties.”

“I have been involved in the community for a very long time, and the community knows I’m transparent and honest,” Cruz said Tuesday. “That’s why the community decided to believe in me tonight.”


30th Ward aldermanic candidate Ruth Cruz at her campaign office at 3605 W. Belmont Ave. on the Northwest Side, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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